Notes From the Knicks 102-97 Victory Over Cleveland

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ytOmUuA3Fs

Well it was an interesting night, to say the least. After coming out in the first half totally flat, and quite frankly uninterested, the Knicks were able to rally back in the second half behind a great performance from Amar’e Stoudemire. A vintage STAT game, Stoudemire scored 22 points on 10/14 shooting en route to victory. Carmelo Anthony went down with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter with the Knicks trailing by 5000 points. Stoudemire picked up the slack and led the Knicks to the win, playing a season high 32 minutes. Despite allowing Cleveland, namely Mo Speights and Luke Walton, to dominate the first half, the Knicks trailed by just 12 at halftime. New York completely dominated the 3rd quarter, holding Cleveland to 13 points. In the 4th, the Knicks scored 32 points behind Stoudemire and some timely three point shooting by Jason Kidd and Steve Novak. Cleveland had a chance to tie the game down three with six seconds remaining, but Tyson Chandler was able to deflect Kyrie Irving’s game tying attempt. Overall, this game wasn’t pretty for the Knicks and was incredibly frustrating, although predictable. Coming off yesterday’s emotional loss to Miami, it was expected the Knicks would have a let down game tonight. That being said, I thought the team showed great resilience to overcome Melo’s injury and an early onslaught of Cavalier offense. Given that Cleveland was playing without Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller, the game should not have been as close as it was, but I was encouraged to see how the Knicks were able to keep fighting back and eventually did what they had to do to win.

Here are my notes from the game:

  • It’s hard to not like what we saw from Amar’e Stoudemire tonight. Although his first half defense was pitiful, namely being mostly responsible for Maurice Speights shooting 10/10 in the first half, he had a vintage Stoudemire second half. Reminiscent of the 2010 MVP candiate version of himself, Stoudemire did it all on offense tonight. I thought he moved well off the ball and was relentless in finishing at the rim. With 40 seconds left in the game, Stoudemire drove to the rim and missed, but grabbed his own rebound and finished over three Cavs. To me, the play was a budding example of the relentlessness and heart he showed tonight. Without his 32 minutes, the Knicks don’t even have a chance tonight. 
  • It was great to see Steve Novak catch fire. The much belittled Novak, who hadn’t had a big game in what seemed like an eternity, buried three of his five second half attempts from beyond the arc. While that sounds modest, the Knicks needed each one of those makes in the second half. Credit Cleveland’s defense for leaving him open so much, but also credit Novak for hitting shots he hasn’t been hitting as of late. Look no further than yesterday’s Miami game for examples of this. Hopefully Novak can take some confidence from this game and put together more performances like this.
  • For the second straight game, Jason Kidd looked pretty good. He buried three triples of his own, including a huge shot down the stretch in the 4th. Kidd also grabbed 8 rebounds. I’m still not enamored with him playing point guard, as I think he should be a full time off-guard. However, it is encouraging to see him rejuvenated and playing well. Prigioni got some burn tonight (finally) and played alongside Kidd. Not surprisingly, the Knicks O-RTG was 115.3 in the 7 minutes they shared the court together. With Kidd coming off the bench, I hope Woodson utilizes this backcourt more often, as I think the Knicks do well offensively with the two point guard lineup.
  • JR Smith continues to struggle. He shot just 1/7 from downtown, 7/17 overall. Woodson apparently chewed him out in film study this morning for bad shot selection and reliance on chucking threes, but evidentially that didn’t have an effect on him tonight. I think Woodson is walking a fine line here. On one hand, he’s told JR in the past to not think and just shoot the ball, but now he’s chiding him over shot selection. As talented as JR is, he’s not a good decision maker. If Woodson gets him to a point where he’s thinking too much on the court, the results could be even worse than what we’ve been seeing. He has to be careful to not destroy JR’s psyche completely or the Knicks will really be in trouble.
  • In 4 minutes of play, starting small forward James White was completely useless again. I wonder how long Woodson will continue with this experiment, as there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind it. With Marcus Camby healthy, the Knicks now have to deactivate a healthy player every game. The last two games, it has been Chris Copeland. However, I’d argue it should be White. Though he’s horrible on defense, we’ve seen that Copeland can contribute on offense if his number is called, whether it’s in the pick and roll or stretching the floor. I’d argue that White does absolutely nothing well and is below average in every facet of the game. I think he’s a wasted roster spot, given his age and lack of ceiling, and he definitely shouldn’t be starting.
  • Last bullet tonight goes to Tyson Chandler, who blocked Kyrie Irving’s game tying three point attempt. Chandler, the Knicks most valuable player, is just awesome. It scares me to think about where the Knicks would be without Chandler, given that they’re average on defense even with him. He has absolutely proven to be worth every dollar he is being paid and showed why tonight. In addition to blocking Irving’s game winning attempt, he also tipped out a huge offensive rebound to Kidd late in the game. That rebound allowed Kidd to go to the line and extend the Knick lead to three, forcing the Cavs to have to shoot from beyond the arc. If not for that rebound and the ensuing block, who knows how the game turns out. Chandler proved his worth again tonight in defense and rebounding, as he has done all season.

After the game, Anthony said they did take an MRI on his knee and that he is fine. He spoke of his knee bothering him for a while now, which to me is a result of Woodson running him into the ground. I think it would be wise to either shut Melo down for a few games, and/or limit his minutes to around 32-34 for the rest of the season. At the very least, I think Anthony should sit against Detroit on Wednesday. If he sits, Woodson will probably start Stoudemire, which presents an interesting quandary in of itself. If Stoudemire starts Wednesday, does Woodson then bench him upon Anthony’s return? It will definitely be a situation to keep an eye on moving forward.

Follow Taylor on Twitter @tarmosino